Having stalked them, befriended them and followed them around like an overenthusiastic puppy for the past six months, I think I’ve sort of figured out the mentality of certain graffiti artists in Cairo.
Their art is not only meant to be seen; they want a reaction on the street. The bigger a reaction their graffiti gets; the better. Especially if it’s negative. These artists actually take joy in their graffiti being painted over, because that just provides fresh new canvas to paint on, fresh meat to chew on.
So if you stumble across a graffiti piece that you don’t like, tracking down the artist and telling him that you hate his piece will make his day. He will jump around the room in glee. He will call his friends. And he will probably tweet about it. Because you took the time to find him and express your reaction towards his work; THAT’s how powerful his graffiti is.
So when an advertising agency called Zenith contacted Adham Bakry about his use of the La Vache Qui Rit logo, they made Bakry the happiest man alive, at least according to the tone of his voice (pure glee) when he called me afterwards.
Here’s how the conversation may have gone (I’ve taken creative liberty of course):
Zenith: ‘Hello is this Adham Bakry? We’re an ad agency representing La Vache Qui Rit.’
Zenith: ‘We saw your sticker of La Vache Qui Rit in E7na Magazine and we’re very upset.’
Adham: ‘No Kidding.’
Zenith: ‘You’re using our brand in a negative way. You’ve given La Vache Qui Rit a negative connotation, when it’s a happy cheese that makes millions of kids happy.’
Adham: (knee jerking) ‘Let me get this straight, you are telling me to not use La Vache Qui Rit because it’s making you unhappy?’
Zenith: ‘And the kids. Don’t forget the happy kids.’
Adham: ‘Have you seen the size of my sticker?!’
Zenith: ‘Well, not really. But you’re ruining the brand’s reputation, and we have thousands of local workers in our factories. By damaging the brand’s reputation, you could be affecting their sales and ruining the livelihood of these poor workers.’
Adham: ‘So I’m making the kids AND the workers unhappy?’
At this point, Adham probably got up, pranced around the room and started giving the poor Zenith rep an earful about his views on corporations, advertising agencies, La Vache Qui Rit, and happy people. I’m kidding about the happy people. I’m sure he loves happy people. But if you have any doubts about his feelings about corporations, you should read this blog. And his blog.
Note to Zenith, and all brand agencies in fact:
- Telling a graffiti artist to stop what he’s doing is the stupidest thing you can do. You’ve just given him more fuel for his fire.
- The Anti-La Vache Qui Rit sticker is a political statement against Hosni Mubarak, nicknamed by many as La Vache Quit Rit. Perhaps you should go after Mubarak for this negative association. He’s already on trial anyway! You’re half-way there!
- Graffiti can’t be controlled. Talking to the artist will neither scare him nor persuade him into complying. Give it up. You look silly.
- The sticker is tiny. Get over it.
- It’s doubtful that you have any legal standing to sue one dude for a sticker he made of the brand. Also, if the media picks up on you picking on him, you’ll look really silly.
- You look really silly already